Why should Indian Railway go for phased upgradation?

    Railway Board may be requested to give reasons for such high cost!

    It should be possible to do the upgradation at 15 to 20 crore per km.

    Suresh Tripathi

    Indian government finally going for upgrading lines to 200 km/hr, but at the high cost of 44 crores/km because it seems Railway Board wants to import locomotives, coaches, signalling etc, and also assistance for upgrading the track. but, the existing ABB locomotives, LHB coaches can be upgraded. Bad that we still have to import every technology and need guidance from outside. It is still one third the cost of Bullet Train.

    Almost 20 years after the original plan which was prepared in 1997 by RUSSO. Data which I have collected shows that if we use existing coaches locomotives etc it should be possible to do the upgradation at 15 to 20 crore per km. My observations on IR’s recently announced plan to upgrade the existing Delhi-Chandigarh line to 200 km/hr.

    In March 2007, as China was completing upgradation of its network to 200 km/hr before moving on to build new HSR lines, I had submitted to the railway board a study of how railways across the world had upgraded and expanded their networks using different approaches that suited their geography, demography and level of economic development. Then Chairman Railway Board had shown a keen interest, but he was to retire shortly.

    Eventually, nothing concrete happened to put back upgradation of the existing network as IR’s top priority.

    Much of the information contained here is from that report: Wherever required the information has been updated to account for the recent developments.

    CHRONOLOGY OF IR’S AMBITION TO RAISE SPEED TO 200 KM/HR:

    *    1983-84: IR prepared plans to raise speed on the trunk routes from 130 km/hr to 160 km/hr. Track and other infrastructure began to be upgraded. RDSO, the research arm of IR was given the task of upgrading existing locomotives, coaches and wagon indigenously with the help of UNDP and other global developmental agencies.

    *    1993-95: RDSO carried out a detailed study on the prototype rolling stock, and submitted its report for raising speed to 160 km/hr on Delhi-Kanpur and Delhi-Bhopal lines.

    *    Upgradation of the track and other infrastructure for this speed had been largely completed on these routes.

    *    In September’1994, Railway Board sent a reminder to RDSO to complete necessary field trials and submit a report for raising speed on the above routes. Speed-raising was to be done the next year (1995).

    *    Field trials were successfully carried out by RDSO in 1995, but Railway Board deferred speed-raising.

    Subsequently, from 1995-2000, IR acquired ABB electric locomotives (WAP-5), and LHB coaches which could run at 160 km/hr on the existing lines and were upgradable to 200 km/hr. With the transfer of technology agreements with the suppliers, production units of IR started manufacturing these locomotives and coaches by 2002.

    WAP-5 have already been upgraded to 200 km/hr and are being manufactured by CLW (Chittaranjan Locomotive Works).

    LHB coaches are presently fit for 160 km/hr.

    Why Indian Railway should go for phased upgradation:

    So upgradation of the line and raising of speed can be done in phases: From present, 120 km/hr to 160 km/hr, then to 180 km/hr and finally to 200 km/hr so that upgradation of the LHB coaches can be done in parallel.

    If IR wants to get new coaches it should be in the last phase from 180 to 200 km/hr. New coaches will offer better ride and fuel economy. In this way, IR can negotiate better with the foreign suppliers.

    Another option is to go for tilting trains after the line is upgraded to 180 km/hr. Tilting trains can run at a speed of 220 to 240 km/hr on track meant for 180 km/hr with smaller inputs to the line.

    The average cost of upgrading existing lines can be expected to be between Rs 12 to 16 crore per kilometre for the track, signalling, electrification etc, excluding locomotives and coaches. These costs are based on expenditure by China in lines like the 942 km line from Hangzhou-Zhuzhou.

    Railway Board may be requested to give reasons for such high cost !!

    #The above report based on in conversation with Alok Kumar Verma, Retired IRSE.

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